Rabbi Jeffrey Orkin
Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, Baltimore, MD
Mar 18, 2014
Rabbi Jeffrey Orkin grew up in Sharon, Massachusetts. He graduated from Brandeis University with a BA in Politics. He learned at Darche Noam in Israel for two years after college. He received Semicha from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) at Yeshiva University, taking courses at Wurzweiler School of Social Work as well. He completed his MSW at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has been a member of the RCA since 1994.
Rabbi Orkin chose to be a chaplain in long term care to share his passion for yiddishkeit and his presence at important end-of-life situations. In his personal philosophy of Judaism, Rabbi Orkin has learned that the little things mean a tremendous amount to the elderly and the infirm. Through his daily visits, weekly programs and holiday celebrations, he attempts to convey the importance of one’s religious practices, especially at the final phase of life.
He has served Levindale and its sister facility, Courtland Gardens, since 2001. With a diverse population, he works to welcome and inspire all residents and their families with personal warmth and a sense of humor.
He contributes to the broader Jewish community through participation as a member of the local Baltimore Board of Rabbis (community rabbis) and the Vaad HaRabbonim of Baltimore (Orthodox rabbis). He serves as a watch commander for the local Northwest Citizens Patrol one evening every seven weeks throughout the year.
Previously before becoming Pastoral Director of Levindale, Rabbi Orkin served as Pastoral Director of Jewish Home and Care Center for seven years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Rabbi Orkin feels his greatest challenge in chaplaincy is handling medical ethical dilemmas. The facility by-laws stipulate that it follows Orthodox Jewish law. Nearly all of the residents are non-Orthodox and nearly half are not Jewish. Each dilemma is handled on a case-by-case basis through the multidisciplinary team and the Ethics Committee.
Rabbi Orkin relates this anecdote, in which he learned how important are the little things: “A few years ago, we had a nursing home resident who would attend weekly Sabbath services. He enjoyed coming, but seemed to be incapable of reciting the blessings for an aliyah to the Torah. That Shabbat, a snowstorm hit and none of the neighborhood seniors were able to attend. We somehow managed to assemble a minyan of residents. When the Torah reading service arrived, I asked ‘do we have a cohen?’ He informed us that he was a cohen and that he could recite the blessings, with assistance. He did so and two weeks later, he died suddenly. At the funeral, I related how wonderful it was that we have this memory of such a dedicated Jew!”
He is married to Deborah Goldstein Orkin from Milwaukee and they are proud parents to Eliezer, age 15, Mendel age 13, Amichai, age 11, Elchonon, age 9 and Bassheva, age 5.